To conjure a fireplace with rustic cottage style, you don't have to move to a converted barn like this homeowner did. You just have to import some of the timeworn elements. For the stones that climb the chimney, choose irregular, rough, and mismatched fieldstone. You can find them at quarries or direct from salvagers who specialize in reclaimed building materials. For the mantel, choose a weathered timber, preferably one that came from a barn, though there are some convincing look-alikes. Finally, continue the theme through accessories such as wrought-iron candlesticks or fireplace tools, galvanized buckets for firewood, lanterns for the mantel, and a painting of a rural scene.
One hallmark of cottage style is the weathered wood of vintage furniture. To get that look for your fireplace, consider stripping the paint from a salvaged mantel. (Test to make sure lead paint isn't present with a lead paint testing kit, available at home improvement stores and hardware stores.) Leave some paint in place and give it a coat of wax to finish the effect. Or, you can give a new mantel a vintage look by whitewashing it with a mere dribble of white paint, spread with a brush soaked in water. For this weathered-look fireplace, the owner also included crumbling stone that's dry-set without mortar to look more tumbledown. For interesting contrast to these worn elements, arrange contemporary items, such as sculptures and modern art, on the mantel. A potted plant is a refreshing bit of life.
Plucked from the creek bed that runs next to this house, these stones are the perfect facing material for a cottage fireplace. You can mimic the effect with river rocks from the home center, affixed to the surround with mortar. Choose smooth stones or craggy ones, large ones or pebbles, or mix them all to vary the effect. Add a trim mantel that's clean and simple to allow the stonework to get all the notice. A photo of a nature scene, such as a river or creek, would work as mantel decoration. This homeowner used a black-and-white photo of a riverboat, and introduced a nice dose of color with collectible dishware.
The all-white scheme is a classic cottage look. For a fireplace, this is easy to accomplish without any remodeling required. All you need is white paint -- and lots of it. Start by painting the mantel with a glossy finish to highlight the woodwork details. Cover the material that surrounds the firebox, whether it's brick, tile, or stone, with heat-resistant paint formulated for that specific material. Finally, you may paint the wall above the mantel white as well, or choose a pale neutral shade to set off the white fireplace. Fill the firebox with white items, such as birchwood logs or, in this case, a white birdcage. The only variation is the subtle icy blue paint on the salvaged tin ceiling tile propped on the mantel. Though it's tempting, avoid hanging a mirror, which actually introduces color as it reflects the objects and people opposite it.
Another beloved variation on the cottage theme is the beachy look. You don't have to live waterside to create the effect. A lot can be accomplished with low-cost accessories and found shells. Start by painting the mantel a beachy hue. In this case, creamy seashell white sets the stage, but you could try sunny yellow, sandy tan, or watery blue as well. Stack driftwood inside the firebox when not in use, and hang a seaside scene over the mantel. Other accessories to use on the mantel include sailing lanterns, nautical rope knots, and the vintage glass balls that were once fishing weights.